Apostrophic failure

9 03 2011

Coming across this article on how grammar and punctuation have evolved on the web got me thinking. I’ve always been a stickler for correctness, and have to admit to being one of the people Eats, Shoots and Leaves was aimed at (despite the use of the Oxford comma there!).

When I first started a blog back in 1997, I decided to write exclusively in lower case as I found it more aesthetically pleasing. I still observed all other rules of grammar and I don’t think the content was harder to read than if it was written conventionally, but this only worked because it was on the web and broken down into small chunks. Reading a printed novel written like that would be a nightmare! The same goes for fonts: what looks good on the screen (Arial or Verdana) can be harder to read in print, where a serif font is usually more appropriate. The reverse is also true – nothing puts me off a webpage more than Times New Roman!

I welcome the evolution of language on the web. Having struggled unsuccessfully to master the art of programming, I find it ironic that it’s digital media pushing for this evolution when punctuation and syntax are such harsh masters in coding country. A single misplaced semi-colon can render a 500-line program useless! I bet programmers wish their compilers would be so forgiving.

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